Software, Technology

Windows 7 Version Hell

To say choosing a version of Windows Vista was not easy is an understatement. There were so many versions and features scattered across those versions, hardly anyone understood the rationale. I can’t believe Microsoft made any extra margin on various versions as the sales support teams spent so much time explaining  the different versions. Move from Home Premium to Business  and you lost features such as DVD Maker and Media Centre…

If you were crazy enough to buy Vista Ultimate, you got precious little at the beginning, on a promise of extra features to come. They never arrived.
Choosing a version of Windows 7 is arguably little easier. There  are six editions of Windows 7, in theory three for retail and three for business/enterprise. Given you could get any edition of vista just about anywhere, I expect do be able to do the same by shopping around for Windows 7, so I don’t see how this is going to stand up once the online retailers get their hands on anything they think will sell.

  1. Starter edition,
  2. Home Basic,
  3. Home Premium,
  4. Professional,
  5. Enterprise and
  6. Ultimate.

Unlike  Vista, each Windows 7 edition is a superset of the one below, so you shouldn’t lose features when you move from one  version to another. However, as a late-comer to this party, I’m still not convinced.

Starter is only available with OEM  hardware. Starter is intended for small notebooks It is the most basic edition of Windows 7 It loses most of the eye-candy and advanced features, whilst still presenting a plethora of menus, windows, programs and options. Yes, it is enough for people who want to do some light web-surfing and check their mail. New features in Starter Edition are :

  • Action Centre,
  • Libraries,
  • Networking with Home Group.

There was an early decision in development to restrict the number of concurrent programs that  could run to just three, like Vista Starter but  Microsoft backed down owing to the howl of customer complaints. But the Starter  does include some ridiculous restrictions like the inability to  change the default wallpaper and there are no personalisation options.

Home Basic is a special edition destined for emerging markets for pre-install on budget PCs.  Supposedly not available for retail sale, like Starter it lacks many Windows-7 features.

Home premium is the mainstream version of  Windows 7 intended for home users. It has all the visual effects  of the new aero interface and aero themes. Home premium also has  a full set of security features . It comes with Windows Media centre and DVD maker (but so does Home Premium – I don’t get this, already). Other ‘key  features’ are

  • Windows Media Player Remote Media Experience,
  • MPEG-2 decoding,
  • Dolby Digital compatibility,
  • AAC and H.264 decoding,
  • DVD playback and the ability to create and join Home  Group.

Professional edition is mainly for enthusiasts and IT  Professionals. It has all the features of Windows  7 Home Premium plus additional features for power users:

  • Windows XP mode (but only available as a separate download )
  • Remote Desktop host,
  • ability to join domains,
  • network- based backup,
  • EFS and Offline Folders.

Unlike Vista Business which it replaces,  the media features are also included.

Enterprise edition is available only for Microsoft  volume licensing customers. It includes all the features of Windows  7 :

  • BitLocker,
  • BitLocker
  • AppLocker,
  • Direct Access,
  • Branche Cache,
  • MUI language  packs
  • Booting from VHD.

Ultimate edition is basically the Enterprise edition available for  retail customers. Windows 7 Ultimate edition doesn’t include the “Ultimate Extras” that we mostly missed out on in Vista Ultimate

If you stick to the three retail editions, the choice is easier; want to use your computer as a home entertainment hub, then use the Home Premium edition; for business use, go for the  Professional version. Unless you’re a real power user enthusiast, the Ultimate edition looks unnecessary.

This seems like another unholy mess to everyone but Microsoft. The whole sub-set/super-set model probably made sense to the marketing team, but who amongst Joe Public knows what half these things stand for much less whether they need them? A lot of these features are so veiled in trademarks as to be undecipherable until you start mousing around. I don’t expect the retailers and re-sellers to make pricing any easier either, despite Microsoft’s guidelines. AJS

About Allan J. Smithie

Allan J. Smithie is a journalist and commentator based in Dubai.


One thought on “Windows 7 Version Hell

  1. Good post. I learn something new and challenging on blogs everyday.

    Posted by Jaidann | Feb 9, 2014, 4:15 am

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